Farmers off to slow start planting corn crop

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Most years about this time, northern Illinois farmer Monty Whipple, like so many Midwest growers, would be riding high in his monstrous planter, kicking up dust while sowing corn in hundreds of acres. But this spring has kept him sidelined, and he's anything but alone.

Spring planting across much of the nation's Corn Belt is sputtering, foiled by rainy and chilly conditions that in broad stretches have left the ground either too soggy or too cold for effective seeding.

As of Sunday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, just 3 percent of the U.S. corn crop was sown, half the dismal pace of last year, when one of the wettest springs on record got farmers in many states off to the slowest start in decades.

In Illinois, just 1 percent of this year's corn has been planted — one-tenth of the average pace of the previous five years. Farmers in other key corn-producing states — Iowa, Nebraska and Indiana — were equally idle, the USDA says. Missouri has 9 percent of its crop in the field, down from 16 percent this time a year ago.

Still, Whipple and other growers in Illinois and Missouri aren't sounding alarms, noting that today's bigger, more efficient planting machines can make up for lost time. Such was the case last year, when more than 40 percent of Illinois' corn crop got planted in just one week in mid-May. The USDA says corn sowing traditionally begins about this time, with that task typically in full swing from April 21 through May 23.

And the agency notes that even with last year's frustratingly slow start to planting, U.S. farmers still reaped a record 13.9 billion bushels of corn and the third-biggest soybean crop on record.

"There's really not any need to be concerned," Illinois Farm Bureau spokesman John Hawkins said.

At least not yet, as Whipple waits for spring to stop acting like winter. With a fresh batch of snow on his roughly 800 acres of farmland near Utica in LaSalle County, he spent Tuesday hauling stored grain to a barge and felt productive.

"I can't be in the field, so this is a good job to get done while waiting," he said, though he admitted he's "starting to get a little frustrated." He guessed it will be another week before he can begin planting corn. "We just haven't had that week or two of good weather, and there's a lot of work to be done."

But he said he has resisted the urge to rush in a crop when the soil is marginal, saying "you only get one shot at this."

Near Missouri's Warrenton, west of St. Louis, Keith Witt said only one or two local farmers have any corn planted — for bragging rights, if anything. But with 3,500 acres soaked by six inches of rain over the past 10 days or so, Witt guesses he'll have to wait until the end of next week to start planting.

Expectations of more rain within days soured any hope of getting in the fields now to plant half of his acreage with corn, then the other half later with beans.

"It's hard to find something to do, realizing you want to be out there and getting it done but can't," said Witt, a former Missouri Corn Growers Association president. "But we still have plenty of time. Last year (with the delayed sowing), we planted everything in four days. So what difference does it make?"

Back in central Illinois, near Auburn, Garry Niemeyer feels lucky. Simply to test his equipment, the 65-year-old farmer has sown 100 of the roughly 1,200 acres he'll devote to corn this year.

The reason: His turf has been relatively dry, though that may change with the considerable chance for rain by Friday.

"I know there's nervous tension, but you have to go with the weather cards you're dealt," he said.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Again, Maria.... how much are YOU contributing? The man doesn't HAVE to give a red cent! What don't you get about that? And, I know this might actually require some actual "facts", but can you please point me to the parking garage that the city gave to him?

  2. Another internet tuff guy I see. And what would the basis of taking the person to jail? If they were drunk, yea. But if not, there would be no jailable offense. All these gestapo, Nazi, jackboots are running SCARED. When the SHTF in this country who's side are you going to be on? The citzens, or the establishment? Better make up your mind quick because it's not far off. I would rather be trying to make friends than enemies. But no worries my "friend", God will take care of you and your likes in good time. It tells us that in the bible. If you stand, support and help carry out the plans of evil rulers, you will NOT be spared the wrath of God. That simple. All you can do is repent now and ask God to forgive you.

  3. Yes, Ersal, thank you for donating a whole $75,000, while the city gives you a parking garage for free and is going to pay for a multi million dollar stadium for you. I'd be donating money too if I was on welfare.

  4. I live and work in Broad Ripple and agree 100% that the traffic is not a significant problem. It can be slow at some times, but hey...this is an urban area. As for the development itself...HOORAY. Office and retail development brings people during the day, something that our community needs much more of. Thank goodness people are finally waking up to take advantage of the serene White River views. The BRVA land us committee endorsed the project because they know how these kind of projects help offset the cries of "too many bars". Pray that this development, and the proposed major investment by Browning, move forward. And remember Good Earth, these will mean hundreds of daytime people - potential shoppers for your store.

  5. Under current, previous existing law, this new law would be unconstitutional. Not that supposedly having to have a driver's license to drive isn't in the first place.